Overnight Energy — Presented by the American Forest & Paper Association — EPA reverses on 'super-polluting' truck policy | Feds end rule that made industry pay for damaged animal habitats

Overnight Energy — Presented by the American Forest & Paper Association — EPA reverses on 'super-polluting' truck policy | Feds end rule that made industry pay for damaged animal habitats
© Greg Nash

WHEELER UNDOES PRUITT'S LAST ACTION: Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Andrew Wheeler is rescinding the agency's policy not to enforce limits on "super-polluting" glider trucks.

The policy was implemented July 6, the last major policy under then-Administrator Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittTrump admin appeals ruling ordering EPA to ban pesticide Government watchdog probing EPA’s handling of Hurricane Harvey response Wheeler won’t stop America’s addiction to fossil fuels MORE. It stated that the EPA would use its discretion to avoid enforcing the Obama administration's 300-truck-per-year sales limit for makers of glider trucks, new truck bodies with old engines and chassis.

Environmental groups call the trucks "super-polluting," because they emit dozens of times more pollutants than trucks with new engines.

"I have concluded that the application of current regulations to the glider industry does not represent the kind of extreme unusual circumstances that support the EPA's exercise of enforcement discretion," Wheeler wrote in a memo released late Thursday night.

Wheeler cited a lawsuit against the policy by environmental groups and states, a federal court's action to halt it and a 1995 internal EPA policy that sought to greatly restrict how often the EPA decides not to enforce regulations on the books.

Green groups cheered Wheeler's reversal.

"This is a huge win for all Americans who care about clean air and human health," Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, said in a statement.

"These super-polluting diesel freight trucks fill our lungs with a toxic stew of pollution. EPA's effort to create a loophole allowing more of them onto our roads was irresponsible and dangerous," he said.

Why it matters: Under Pruitt, the EPA got in trouble in court numerous times for not following the legal process to delay, roll back or change regulations. It happened with methane rules, ozone rules, air pollution petitions and more.

That was despite Pruitt's frequent statements that he was committed to the "rule of law," and his reputation in his previous job as Oklahoma's attorney general of suing the EPA more than a dozen times when he felt it had broken the law.

But Wheeler's new memo shows he might be more legally cautious that Pruitt, and he might be more committed to avoiding legally questionable actions.

What's next: Since the EPA proposed last year to repeal the glider truck provision, it is now working to make that repeal final. The final rule has not yet been sent to the White House Office of Management and Budget for its review, which is the final step before it can be released to the public.

Once it is made final, opponents are likely to sue to get it overturned.

Read more.

 

 

TGIF! Welcome to Overnight Energy, The Hill's roundup of the latest energy and environment news.

Please send tips and comments to Timothy Cama, tcama@thehill.com, and Miranda Green, mgreen@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @Timothy_Cama, @mirandacgreen, @thehill.

 

INTERIOR ENDS OBAMA POLICY THAT CHARGED INDUSTRY FOR SPECIES HARM: The Trump administration is ending an Obama-era practice of mandating that industry alleviate the destruction of key habitats for endangered species by paying the government.

The Fish and Wildlife Service announced Friday the withdrawal of the December 27,2016 compensatory mitigation policy for the Endangered Species Act, which directed the agency to set a "net-benefit" goal or a no-net-loss goal for natural resources extraction on public lands.

The reversal announcement says that the species and habitat destruction offset policy is no longer consistent with Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeUS to approve import of black rhino killed in hunt Zinke must change direction and support conservation Energy development will likely land one bird on the Endangered Species list MORE's secretarial order to focus on promotion of energy independence.

The order titled American Energy Independence on March 29, 2017 "directed Department of the Interior bureaus to reexamine mitigation policies and practices to better balance conservation strategies and policies with job creation for American families," the rule reads.

The administration argues that tying a monetary fine with endangered species habitat destruction could lead to abuse of the policy against industry.

"Because by definition compensatory mitigation does not directly avoid or minimize the anticipated harm, its application is particularly ripe for abuse," the decision reads.

Read more here.

Read more about recent proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act.

 

EPA ETHICS OFFICE DEFENDS WHEELER: A top EPA ethics official is defending Wheeler over a series of meetings he held with former clients.

Justina Fugh, the No. 2 ethics official for the EPA, said the meetings described in an E&E News story Thursday are well within the bounds of the ethical standards Wheeler is subject to as a senior Trump administration official.

"All four of these meetings so squarely meet the bounds of his articulated recusal statement," Fugh told The Hill on Friday.

E&E reported that between Wheeler's April arrival at the EPA as deputy administrator and his ascension to acting head earlier this month after former chief Scott Pruitt's resignation over ethics and spending scandals, Wheeler held meetings with three former lobbying clients and gave a speech at an event led by an executive at another company he used to represent.

Fugh said Darling Ingredients, Archer Daniels Midland Co. and the South Coast Air Quality Management District don't count as "former clients" under President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE's ethics pledge for political appointees and nominees because Wheeler didn't work for them within two years before his arrival at the EPA.

"A former client is defined as anybody for whom the appointee provided services -- legal service, consulting services, whatever -- within the prior two years," Fugh said.

Read more.

 

NEXT WEEK: WHEELER TO THE SENATE: Wheeler is heading to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee next week for his first hearing since last year's confirmation hearing.

A lot has happened since then. He took charge as deputy administrator in April and ascended to acting administrator earlier this month, not to mention all of Pruitt's scandals.

The committee hasn't indicated yet if there are any specific areas of focus for Wheeler's grilling, beyond the EPA's agenda.

But senators are likely to push him on many of the same policy questions as Pruitt, like his aggressive deregulatory agenda, biofuels policy and what his plans on various hot-button issues.

Wheeler also indicated in a recent USA Today interview that the Trump administration's proposal to roll back car efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions standards will come out publicly next week. 

In it, officials are expected to present numerous options for weakening the Obama administration's aggressive standards through 2026, including the idea of freezing them in 2020 and canceling the planning increases in stringency.

"We're proposing a list of options. We have a preferred option but I don't want to get ahead of the actual proposal before it goes out," Wheeler told the newspaper.

 

SPONSORED CONTENT - AMERICAN FOREST & PAPER ASSOCIATION:

AF&PA members are committed to environmental stewardship across the paper and wood products manufacturing value chain—from sourcing to manufacturing to recovery for recycling to make new products. Click here to learn more.

 

OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

Two National Park Service rangers who shot a man along the Buffalo National River last August won't face charges, KY3 reports.

Exxon Mobil fell well short of investors' expectations with its second-quarter profit announcement Friday, CNBC reports.

Iowa's sole nuclear power plant is on track to close in 2020, the Gazette reports.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Check out Friday's stories ...

-New EPA head: Obama 'jumped the gun' on vehicle emissions standards

-EPA ethics official defends Wheeler over meetings

-EPA reverses course on 'super-polluting' truck policy

-More than three dozen lion trophy permits issued as Trump rolls back protections

-EPA head met with former lobbying clients despite saying he wouldn't: report